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Teen Corner: Book Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Updated: Feb 24

Introducing BAM’s Teen Corner, where you’ll find exclusive news and content about our YA authors. Read on for a book review from BAM fan and bookworm Mary Elynne Butler.


I’ll admit it: I judge books by their covers. Who doesn’t? I don’t usually pick up books with characters on the cover. I generally avoid them because I like to imagine what my characters look like, and seeing a picture of the characters on the front doesn’t give me much room for imagination. So when I saw An Ember in the Ashes on the shelf, I gave it a second look before picking it up. I decided to step out of my comfort zone because I had read some good reviews for this series. I went into the first book unsure about how I would feel, and by the 2nd chapter, I was hooked.

In the An Ember in the Ashes series, Sabaa Tahir crafts an immersive fantasy world so elaborate and sophisticated that it feels real. All of her characters have such unique personalities, each of them flawed and fighting their own battles. This series is a perfect mix of fantasy, adventure, and a hint of romance.


The first book features two different perspectives: Laia, a girl who’s willing to do anything to save her brother, and Elias, a student at Blackcliff Academy, a military establishment where the Empire’s finest soldiers are trained. Laia makes a deal with the resistance, a group of rebels who promise to rescue her brother- for a price. As the son of the Commandant, the infamously cruel headmaster of Blackcliff, Elias has witnessed the horrors of the Empire firsthand, and he’s sick of it.


Elias is ready to escape Blackcliff but is stopped short at the announcement of the trials, a series of violent and brutal tests to determine the new Emperor. While taking part in the trials, Elias meets the academy’s newest slave- Laia. As an unexpected alliance forms between the slave girl and the soldier boy, they must face danger, betrayal, and scariest of all, their feelings for each other.


One of my all time favorite parts about this book is the brilliant cast of characters. Each one is so relatable and understandable, they seem real. While reading this book, I felt like I had gained some new friends because of how well the characters were developed. When I finished the first book I missed them, and when I started the second book I was happy to be reunited with them. Each character’s personality is perfectly tailored to their backstory, and the characters change with everything they experience throughout the book. It’s filled with adventure, action, danger, magic, and plot twists- plenty of plot twists.


And after staring at them for hours, I’ve grown to love the covers of these books, and I like the way the characters were depicted. But this series taught me that it’s not about the cover, it’s about what’s inside.

Mary Elynne is an 8th grader who enjoys reading books–lots and lots of books. If she isn’t reading, she is rearranging her bookshelves or online shopping (for more books).



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